Vermont revenues fall $21 million short

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MONTPELIER >> Lawmakers could vote on tightening the current fiscal year's state budget next week in light of a significant reduction in revenue projections.

General fund revenue receipts for fiscal 2016, which closed at the end of June, had come in $16.1 million lower than target.

In light of that underperformance, revenue targets for the current fiscal year are being reduced by $21 million, the administration announced Thursday.

Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson had said Wednesday that he was prepared to face some sort of downgrade in light of low revenue receipts in the final months of the just-ended fiscal year.

The adjusted revenue targets became clearer early Thursday afternoon at an Emergency Board meeting. Members of the board will adopt a consensus revenue forecast based on estimates from two economists — one from the Legislature, the other from the administration.

Under state statute, any time the revenue estimate is reduced by 1 percent or more, the administration must put together a proposal for adjusting the state budget.

Time has been allotted on an agenda for a Joint Fiscal Committee meeting next week to review and vote on a possible rescission plan for the fiscal year 2017 budget from the administration.

Finance and Management Commissioner Andy Pallito said Thursday that he anticipates the state will be able to cope with a potential revenue downgrade with resources that are already available in the budget because spending has been lower than expected in some areas.

Rep. Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said Thursday morning that there are still many details of state finances that need to be reviewed.

"We don't have a lot of information yet about how much of the (fiscal 2016) lag in revenue is from one-time things like a bad winter, how much are structural problems based on what we rely on for income like a very volatile estate tax, and how much could be a trend that we need to worry about," Johnson said.

She emphasized that she is not alarmed.

"I'm not freaked yet," Johnson said.

Elizabeth Hewitt is the criminal justice reporter for VTDigger.


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